At a consistently lean 6' 2", green-eyed Timothy Dalton may very well be one of the last of the dying breed of swashbuckling, classically trained Shakespearean actors who have forged simultaneous successful careers in theater, television and film. He has been comparison-shopped roundly for stepping into roles played by other actors, first following Sir Laurence Olivier in Wuthering Heights (1970), then as James Bond in The Living Daylights (1987) and Licence to Kill (1989), and even more brutally recently as Rhett Butler in "Scarlett" (1994) (mini).
Undaunted and good-natured, he has always stated that he likes the risk of challenges. The oldest of five children, he was born on March 21, 1944, in Colwyn Bay, North Wales, where his father was stationed during WWII, and is a mixture of Italian, Irish and English. His father moved the family to Manchester in the late 1940s, where he worked in advertising and raised the growing Dalton family in an upper-class neighborhood outside of Belper, Derbyshire, just south of Manchester. Timothy was enrolled in a school for bright children, where he excelled in sports and was interested in the sciences. He was fascinated with acting from a young age, perhaps due to the fact that both his grandfathers were vaudevillians, but it was when he saw a performance of "Macbeth" at age 16 that his destiny was clinched. After finishing the British equivalent of high school, he toured as a leading member of Michael Croft's National Youth Theater. Between 1964-66, he studied at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). Just before completing his two years, he quit and joined the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, playing the lead in many productions under the direction of Peter Dews while at the same time turning professional. Dalton later said of RADA in an interview with "Seventeen" Magazine (December 1970), "It took a year to undo the psychological damage that was caused by the oppressive teachers."
His talent and classic good looks immediately landed him professional work in television, guest-starring on an episode of the short-lived TV series, "Judge Dee" (1969), and as a regular on the 14-episode series "Sat'day While Sunday" (1967) with the young Malcolm McDowell. In late 1967 Peter O'Toole recommended him for the role of the young King Philip of France in The Lion in Winter (1968) (coincidentally, this was also Anthony Hopkins' big break). The following year he starred in the Italian film Giochi particolari (1970) with Marcello Mastroianni and Virna Lisi, although his voice was dubbed into Italian by another actor. Dalton also mixed in a healthy dose of BBC work during this time, including The Three Princes (1968) (TV), _Play of the Month: Five Finger Exercise (1970) (TV)_ and Candida (1973) (TV). Also during this time he was approached and tested for the role of James Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) but turned it down, feeling he was too young for the part. His next film was another costume drama, Cromwell (1970), working with director Ken Hughes, with whom he later made his first American film, Sextette (1978). He followed "Cromwell" with Wuthering Heights (1970) and Mary, Queen of Scots (1971).
He was already developing a pattern in his films that would follow him throughout his career: costume dramas where he played royalty, which he had done in three of his first four films (and ridden horses in three, and raised a sword in two). In 1972 he was contracted to play a part in Lady Caroline Lamb (1972). However, at the last moment he was replaced. Dalton sued the company and won, but the film went on without him. From the early to mid-1970s he decided to further hone his skills by going back into the theater full time. He signed on with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and the Prospect Theatre Company (PTC), and toured the world with both, playing the leads in "Romeo and Juliet", "King Lear", "Henry V", "Love's Labours Lost", and "Henry IV" - parts 1 and 2.
In 1975 he returned to movies in the British/Austrian production of Permission to Kill (1975). It was followed in 1976 by the Spanish religious historical film about the inquisition, Hombre que supo amar, El (1978), which was never widely released. After this he took another break from film, mixing in a healthy dose of theater, returning for his first American film, Sextette (1978), and the lengthy miniseries "Centennial" (1978) (mini), his first American television appearance, in which Lynn Redgrave played his wife. Because of his broad exposure to American audiences in this series, he began to spend more time in the US and started to get more frequent film and television work, including the episode "Fallen Angel" of "Charlie's Angels" (1976)--which ironically had several references to his character being like James Bond--and the TV movie The Flame Is Love (1979) (TV). Although he did a few features, including playing Vanessa's husband again in Agatha (1979), most of his work until 1985 consisted of TV movies and miniseries.
He played royalty again in the very campy Flash Gordon (1980). He followed this with a small film, Chanel Solitaire (1981), and in 1981 also filmed a staged production of Antony & Cleopatra (1981) (TV) opposite Lynn Redgrave, along with Anthony Geary and many of the cast members from the original TV series, "Star Trek" (1966). The years 1983-1987 have so far been the most prolific of his career. In 1983 he starred as Rochester in what he considers one of his best works, the BBC's very popular "Jane Eyre" (1983) (mini). Also during this time, Roger Moore was considering leaving Bond, and Dalton was again approached, but due to his full schedule, he had to decline. In 1984 he did one of his many narrations in the "Faerie Tale Theater" production of The Emperor's New Clothes (1987). That same year also saw him in the Hallmark Hall of Fame piece The Master of Ballantrae (1984) (TV) opposite Michael York and Richard Thomas, and another miniseries, "Mistral's Daughter" (1984) (mini), opposite Stefanie Powers and Stacy Keach.
The next year was also a very busy one. He starred in another miniseries, "Sins" (1986) (mini), playing the brother of Joan Collins, and also starred in and narrated the four-hour TV movie Florence Nightingale (1985) (TV), opposite Jaclyn Smith. He also starred in The Doctor and the Devils (1985) as Dr. Thomas Rock, with Stephen Rea, Jonathan Pryce and Patrick Stewart.
In the mid to late 1980s Dalton narrated many nature documentaries, most notably several episodes of the UK series "Survival Factor" (1987) (mini) (called "Wildlife Chronicles" in the US). In the spring of 1986 he again teamed with Vanessa Redgrave for a revival of two Shakespeare productions, The Taming of the Shrew (1988) (TV) and Antony and Cleopatra (1983) (TV), and his interpretation of Petrucchio received uniformly high praise. Simultaneously, the world was playing a guessing game as to who would succeed Moore as James Bond. Dalton was approached but was committed to the theater, and so Pierce Brosnan was offered the part. When Brosnan was unable to get out of his "Remington Steele" (1982) contract at the last minute, Dalton was again approached. Able now to work it into his tight schedule, he agreed.
Although his first outing as Bond, The Living Daylights (1987), did reasonably well at the box-office, Licence to Kill (1989) suffered from a lack of marketing that appeared to harm its chances of big box-office success. However, Dalton's interpretation of Bond in this film received critical acclaim in some quarters as being the closest to author Ian Fleming's literary Bond.
Back in the theater, he teamed again with Vanessa Redgrave for a revival of Eugene O'Neill's seldom performed play, "A Touch of the Poet", which is considered by some to be his and Redgrave's finest professional collaboration. Although there were talks of bringing the play to Broadway, this never materialized.
Following "Licence to Kill" he immediately returned to one of his strengths, costume drama, in Putain du roi, La (1990). It was followed by his excellent performance in Disney's The Rocketeer (1991), where he played a swashbuckling, Errol Flynn type. In August 1991 he teamed with friend Whoopi Goldberg for the first bi-racial interpretation of "Love Letters" for the final performances of the play in Los Angeles, and it was sold out.
When he had signed on to do Bond it was for three pictures, but the rights to the Bond films became entangled in lengthy litigation, delaying production of the third. During this wait he was set to star in the title role of another historical epic, Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992). From the start, however, the film was doomed due to the competition with the Gérard Depardieu Columbus picture, and it was also racked with its own problems. When the director was replaced, Dalton backed out and was followed by his co-star, Isabella Rossellini.
In 1992 he starred in the A&E production Framed (1992) (TV), which won a bronze medal in the 1993 New York Film Festival. The next year he journeyed to northern Alaska and Minnesota to make a documentary on one of his favorite subjects, wolves. In the Company of Whales (1991) (TV) went on to win a silver medal in the 1994 New York Film Festival.
He kept busy in television through 1993 and 1994. He made Lie Down with Lions (1994) (TV), "Scarlett" (1994) (mini), and managed to squeeze in a guest appearance on "Tales from the Crypt" (1989) in the episode "Werewolf Concerto." In 1994 he took on the role of Rhett Butler in the eight-hour mini-series "Scarlett" produced by Robert Halmi Sr. for the Hallmark Hall of Fame. In April of that year, believing he needed to move on to fresh challenges, he officially resigned the role of James Bond, a move which was much regretted by the producers, though they understood his reasons. After two months of negotiations, the role went to Pierce Brosnan.
In September 1994 Dalton was called upon for two readings of "Peter and the Wolf" at the Hollywood Bowl. He played to full-capacity crowds. In November "Scarlett" premiered over four nights. Though given only a lukewarm response by critics, it was a ratings success not only in the US but all over the world, breaking records in many European countries. As always after a major work, Dalton again withdrew quietly and without fanfare to search for his next project, a small, personal film. In the summer of 1995 he journeyed to Canada to shoot Salt Water Moose (1996). The film was made by Canada's Norstar Entertainment and was sold to Halmi to be the first video release in his new line of Hallmark family films. It premiered on Showtime in June 1996.
During the spring of 1996 he made the IRA drama The Informant (1997) in Ireland, and in May he traveled to Prague to shoot The Reef (1999), opposite Sela Ward. On February 7, 1997, the comedy The Beautician and the Beast (1997) co-starring Fran Drescher opened in the US. He played a former president/dictator and did a little sword-fighting. He also gleefully parodied his swashbuckling/James Bond image in Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003) as a spy playing an actor playing a spy.
Dalton is very much a private man. His pastimes include fishing, reading, jazz, opera, antique fairs and auctions and, of course, movies.